MH17 has strong echoes of 1983 Korean tragedy

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SEOUL, July 23, 2014 (AFP) – The downing of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine has stirred memories of a 1983 incident when a Korean passenger jet was shot down by Soviet fighters in what then US president Ronald Reagan called a mid-air “massacre”. As with the Malaysian plane, the loss of life was total, with all 269 passengers and crew aboard Korean Air Lines Flight 007 perishing when the stricken aircraft plunged into the Sea of Japan.

The similarities between the two disasters are striking.

Both involved aircraft from Asian airlines that were brought down by military weaponry in strikes that were directly or indirectly blamed on Russia.

And both came at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow, that fuelled angry exchanges over responsibility and hampered the resulting salvage operation and accident investigation.

And, to some extent, the personal tragedy of the hundreds of innocent lost lives was overshadowed by the subsequent blame game and the wider geo-political considerations that coloured the international community’s response.

The downing of KAL 007 in September 1983 coincided with a surge in tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, which Ronald Reagan had denounced just months b